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Last edited 26 Feb 2021
Battens in construction
A batten is generally a strip of timber (although it can also be steel or plastic) which is used in the construction of buildings. They are typically used as spacers to raise the surface of a material, or as a secondary framework onto which a surface may be fixed.
In the construction of traditional roofs, battens are fixed to the roof structure, and tiles or slates are fixed to the battens. They maintain the roof covering in straight, consistent rows, and provide a strong anchor for the nails or clips used to secure the tiles or slates. They must be capable of carrying both the 'dead' loads and 'live' loads, and are typically timber, but can also be plastic which does not decay as easily.
Horizontal battens run perpendicular to the slope of the roof and as a result have a tendency to trap moisture running underneath the cladding material. Unless it can run under the battens, moisture will dam up against the first batten and run sideways until finding a way through the underlay. Drainage is improved by providing a 1 inch gap every four feet.
Counter-batten systems may sometimes be used, which are a grid of battens that run in both directions and improve ventilation. By placing insulation boards above rafters there is a greater need for counter-battens to reduce the cold bridging effect of the rafters.
Battens may also be fitted to the inside of wall constructions, fixed to the wall at regular spacings with plasterboard or drywall screwed to them. This might be necessary for the installation of solid wall insulation or to cover or smooth over a wall surface.
Ceiling battens (sometimes referred to as 'branders') are typically formed by 50 mm x 50 mm lengths of timber with 50 x 50 mm counter battens, or with resilient bars perpendicular to the branders. The ceiling itself is then attached beneath the battens.
This form of construction is commonly used beneath a concrete floor slab, or where a ceiling is constructed below an existing floor structure for remedial reasons - perhaps to improve acoustic performance. However, generally, metal straps or ties provide better acoustic performance than continuous timber battens as they have less contact area.
A 'resilient batten' is a timber batten with a pre-bonded resilient layer that can be placed under floor surfaces to reduce impact sound. A resilient layer is a layer that isolates an element (such as screed or a floating floor) from another element (such as the base floor).
Board-and-batten is used to create the exterior finish of timber-clad buildings. It consists of vertical boards, laid one beside another with battens covering the seams. This is commonly how timber barns are constructed, and some timber housing in North America.
Safety in the storage and handling of steel and other metal stock, second edition, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in August 2016, defines battens (or bearers or dannage) as: ‘Hardwood, metal or plastic spacing pieces for separating or supporting stock; usually placed horizontally between bundles or individual plates or sections to enable stable storage and access for attaching lifting accessories. Only similar-sized battens should be used together.’
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